Inside Prince’s former Toronto home with the high-end real estate agent tasked with selling it
Realtor Barry Cohen sits on a half-moon couch backed by a wall of mirrors in a large basement room with purple walls, purple shag carpeting and a pool table with purple felt rhyming off all the things his father taught him never to discuss with clients: religion, politics, sports and music.
Such are the subject areas that a high-end real estate agent, renowned for selling luxury Toronto homes often better described as castles, faux French chateaus or English country estate knockoffs, should be wary of wading into with the wealthy people Barry Cohen Homes Inc. represents.
His discretion includes the wealthy people who currently own the California ranch-style bungalow with the purple shag carpet at 61 The Bridle Path, an address they are hoping to part with for a mere $16.9 million or so, with help from Cohen, who has facilitated more than $5-billion worth of real estate transactions in his career and been named Re/Max’s No. 1 agent on many occasions.
It is a staggering sum for a two-level, 14,280-square-foot pad with intriguing basement decor. But the purple-heavy colour scheme can be credited to one Prince Rogers Nelson, better known by just his first name.
The paisley-loving pop icon died in 2016 of a fentanyl overdose at Paisley Park, his studio/home on the outskirts of Minneapolis, but once upon happier times, Prince and his Canadian ex-wife, Manuela Testolini, lived in a home in a tony area of Toronto often referred to as Millionaires’ Row.
The house was sold after the couple divorced in 2007, but the purple shag carpet nonetheless remains.
Cohen, tasked with selling the carpet, along with the rest of the house, “embarrassingly” admits to being “more into Genesis,” than Prince. The 59-year-old also likes Elvis. In his view, Elvis had presence, sex appeal, style — he was the King — while Genesis had Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins.
Many, of course, would say Prince also had presence, sex appeal and style, but the fancy trappings at his former home — including a hair salon, also painted purple, and Prince’s famous symbol, known among Prince-o-philes as The Love Symbol, which is etched into the glass doors leading into the main floor dining room — are not what will sell the home, Cohen said.
Sure, for a Prince fan, they might be supercool, but a prospective buyer being asked to shell out some serious coin may just as likely consider putting in new carpeting and repainting.
“I think people are intrigued by it,” Cohen said of the home’s dead rock star connection. “But I don’t know that they would purchase a home because of it.”
Instead, the realtor, a salesman since he was 19, highlights the home’s exclusive address and attributes. The Bridle Path isn’t just another street. It is a name, a brand, a beacon, and it carries with it a cachet among the super rich, because only the super rich can afford to live there.
Buying here means buying into The Club, and among the newest members is Drake, who is building a home nearby, and who once pitched Cohen on renting Prince’s old pad, a scenario the current owners nixed. Céline Dion has a house in the area, Gordon Lightfoot, too.
“This is The Bridle Path, this is the most expensive real estate in Canada, known for its lot sizes and lush trees,” Cohen said. “This home is two acres, with 14,000 square feet on two levels. Size matters, and the level of finishes and the age of the finishes — it is a wonderful address to own.”
Should one like tennis, there is a court out back, as is a swimming pool; should cars be your thing, there are 22 parking spaces.
Ontario land registry records indicate Prince and his ex paid $5.5 million for the property in 2001. The house sold for $8.325 million in 2011, and has since been publicly listed for sale four times, at myriad price points ranging from $12.788 million to $17.88 million.
By comparison, the average price of a home in Toronto in 2011 was $701,000. Today it is $1.3 million, an 88 per cent increase that, all homes being equal, makes the working stiff’s sense of sticker shock at the $16.88 million asking price for Prince’s former home appear relative.
Cohen describes the property’s current owners as “property collectors,” a polite way of indicating they don’t really inhabit the house, as evidenced by the kitchen cupboards, essentially bare but for a single can of beans, but use it, now and again, to entertain friends and family in between periods of trying to sell it. Previous attempts have netted them several serious offers, though none quite good enough to sign off on.
Why they bought the house in the first place is subject to speculation. Perhaps they looked at it as a good long-term investment, or else maybe they loved Prince. Cohen won’t say either way, since the best way to retain one’s wealthy clients is to avoid gossiping about them.
But then Prince was never a client.
“The couch we are sitting on, the colours, the hair salon, that is all from Prince,” Cohen said. “We had his piano here for years, and the owners kept saying, ‘Could you please kindly take your piano?’”
Turns out, it was just an oversight that the piano was left behind. Prince’s former wife finally had someone come and take it. The rest of the house, however, is still up for grabs.